Songboling Forest Park is a leading forest park and tourist destination in Nantou, Taiwan. To most foreign travelers who have not been to Taiwan, the most common thinking about this island-nation involves its “Made in Taiwan” products and the country’s developing technology. Many would be surprised to know that located in the heart of Taiwan are lush forests, breath-taking waterfalls, and picturesque mountains. Nantou is often unsurprisingly referred to as the “Switzerland of the East” for its alpine peaks.
Rising 500 meters above sea level, Songboling Forest Park is widely popular for the Shoutian Taoist Temple and its aromatic tea leaves. The area is the largest producer of high quality Taiwan-made tea. Songboling-produced teas have earned the nickname “Longevity Tea” from the late president Chiang Ching Kuo.
Meanwhile, Shoutian Temple is an important haven for the faithful, having been established as early as the 18th Century. Shoutian is the Taoist deity of “Somber Heavens”. His birthday is widely celebrated on the 3rd day of the 3rd month of the Chinese calendar, which almost always falls on the last week of March. The day coincides with the Spring Harvest. The 4-storey Shoutian Temple overlooks two important Taiwanese rivers, Qingshui River and Zhoushui Rivers. Near the temple are two pavilions where tourists normally take a rest and the tourism service center of Songboling.
Thanks to Songboling and a few other tea farms, the county of Nantou is now known as the “Tea Kingdom” of Taiwan. Tea farms and plantations may be found in several towns and Nantou’s capital city, Nantou City. As an incentive to tea growers, the county government continues to encourage the locals to purchase their teas directly from tea farmers. This does not only guarantee the freshest tea leaves, but also significantly supports the farmers’ livelihood. There are also several tea shops and tea houses mushrooming all over the county, specifically along the hills and valleys between Songboling and Tianjhong Forest Park. Songboling and Tianjhong are separated by a 2.6-km trail along several tea farms and shops, which make for a lovely leisure stroll. The most popular kind of tea in Nantou is the Oolong tea from Mingjian, a tiny village in Songboling that exudes an aromatic tea-flavored scent. There are about 300 Oolong tea producers in this area alone.
Tea leaves are harvested by hand. Farmers believe and consumers have proven that hand-harvested teas taste lighter and smell finer than machine-cut leaves. Tea leaf cutters are seasoned village ladies whose hands have delicately cut and harvested tea leaves through the years.
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Found on Minsong Road in Mingjian Township, Nantou County, Songboling Forest Park may be easily accessible by train and bus. Visitors take the train and get off at Tianjhong train station or Ershui train station. From either of this stations are Changhua buses that go directly to Songboling. When driving to the park, a tourist must take County Highway 152, which connects Ershui Township and Songboling. Other routes are: (1) National Highway, Mingjian Interchange, Zhuoshui Railway Station, (2) Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Park, Provincial Highway 16, Zhuoshui Railway Station, or (3) Ershui Township in Changhua, County Highway 152, Songboling.